The Last Resort
Posted on 04/29/23 at 9:12pm by Nate Colton
Event: ReVival 27
This is a story about the boy who got everything he ever wanted.
Nate stared at the ceiling and watched the shadows formed by the first rays of sunlight peeking through the blinds.
God, please let this last forever
The shadows aren’t that cool, which meant Nate was thinking about something else. Specifically, the woman curled up next to him. He felt the warmth of her body radiate into his; every point of contact between them felt electric on his skin.
He loved these moments. He loved all the moments; the conversations, the parties, the…other stuff…but these were his favorites. Just the two of them, together, in the quiet.
Nate felt an arrhythmic tapping on his chest. He glanced down and saw her fingers drumming on his sternum in a seemingly random pattern.
It wasn’t random, though. When people have been close for a long time, they develop a kind of secret language. Little phrases, gestures, or actions that have a specific meaning to the people involved. This was part of that, and even though it had been almost three years since the language had been “spoken,” Nate hadn’t forgotten any of it.
He rolled over toward the nightstand and grabbed both phones. He handed one to her, which she accepted with a smile and started typing within seconds.
ugh, I should probably get up soon
She giggled silently, and gave him a soft kiss on the cheek. He grinned and kissed her back.
want me to make you breakfast?
The three dots appeared on his screen, and…stayed there a while. Nate knew she was trying to be polite, but he also knew what his cooking skills were like, so he saved her the trouble.
maybe in a bit
weve got some time
sing for me
He looked at her in confusion. “I ca–” he started saying, before he caught himself and answered by text.
I can’t sing worth a damn
He felt her push herself up a little bit; when he turned to face her, she brought her finger to his face and booped him on the nose. This, combined with the bemused look on her face, was another instance of their secret language.
This one meant, “It’s a good thing you’re cute, because you’re kinda dumb.”
Nate laughed and nodded. She drew herself close and laid her head and hand on top of Nate’s chest. He briefly considered several different Eagles songs, since knew those the best…but no, that wasn’t right. Even if she has no idea, it has to be perfect.
Oh. Of course.
“I found a love for me,” Nate began, barely within the same ZIP code as Ed Sheeren’s actual tune. “Darling, just dive right in and follow my lead…” Nate ran his fingers through her blonde hair, and he felt her press even tighter against him, absorbing more of the vibrations from his chest as he sang.
“I found a girl…beautiful and sweet…”
She brought her left hand up to his face and softly stroked his cheek, occasionally grazing his earlobe with her thumb.
Times like these had always been his favorites. Away from the noise, away from the crowds, away from the world and all the expectations it carried. When they could just be together. When they could just…be.
He knew the moment couldn’t last; at any second the demands of their respective lives would break the spell. But that didn’t stop Nate from repeating his silent prayer.
Forever’s not too much to ask, right?
# # #
Forever, as it turned out, lasted just over two hours. Then she had to get ready for work, and he had barely enough time to offer her coffee before she left.
Nate stared at the ceiling, because nothing else seemed worth looking at.
This is ridiculous. I’ve got shit to do. Time to motivate. And…up.
His legs stubbornly refused to swing off the bed, nor would his head raise off of the pillow.
Up, I said.
You’ve got a thousand things to do and another huge match to prepare for, get your ass out of bed
Nate let out a heavy sigh. He knew that if he wanted to break through his malaise, he’d have to fight dirty.
Is it still there?
One of the most valuable skills Nate had picked up in his years of training was how to trick his brain. Even the most competitive athletes in the world don’t want to go to the gym every day, so they have to use whatever tactics they can to encourage themselves. Gym buddies are great for that; they supply a system for both support and accountability. He was sure he’d been getting messages from his sparring partner, but they didn’t mean a lot when he couldn’t even be bothered to look at his phone.
Of course it’s still there. You know it is.
Sometimes, you had to get nasty with yourself. Force thoughts into your mind and trigger your emotions. Anger. Jealousy. Fear.
But what if…
A sense of panic creeped in around the edges of his mind. His heart beat faster.
It’s there. It has to be. It HAS to.
His muscles clenched with anxiety, and he finally sat up.
I should make sure though.
He stepped off the bed and quick-stepped toward the bathroom, his eyes focused on the sink before he even opened the door. Once he did, he saw what he was looking for, and the fear melted away.
There was a small glass next to the sink, where Nate kept his toothbrush. It was still there, but there was a second toothbrush as well. Orange, to contrast his blue, their colors melding together like a beautiful sunrise.
Thank God. I mean, I knew, but still
The wave of relief subsided, and Nate was ready to get to work. He grabbed his phone and checked the steadily-growing backlog of unread texts. Sure enough, there were a few from his sparring partner, Kyle Nguyen.
Hey buddy we actually going to do this today
Gonna be pissed if I had to learn this style for nothing
on my way now
Good, see you in a few
Nate grabbed his gym bag and headed for the door, thankful that his self-deception had worked. It was like sleight of hand…you could know how the trick works and still be fooled.
However, he still chided himself a little bit for getting so scared, when he knew for a fact that the toothbrush would still be there.
He’d already checked, the moment she left the apartment.
# # #
After changing and stretching, Nate headed for one of the practice rings. There he saw his training partner, staring at an imaginary watch.
“Took your damn sweet time, Hoosier,” Kyle said.
“Bite me,” Nate snapped back as he stepped through the ropes. Normally he enjoyed Kyle’s banter, but he just wasn’t into it today. Not that it kept Kyle from talking.
“Just wanna say, I’m never doing this shit again,” Kyle groused. “Asking me to copy Coral goddamn Avalon. Might as well ask me to paint like Van Gogh or some shit.”
This might be a good time to tell the story of Kyle “Chameleon” Nguyen.
It started with Jake Colton, because of course it did. Jake had contacts with almost every promotion…but rarely with the people at the top.
No, Jake Colton built his network from people at the bottom. The referees, the ring crew, the commentators…and the rookies.
Kyle Nguyen was one such rookie, breaking into the business just a few months before Jake’s forced retirement. He was a promising talent with a peculiar skill: with enough research and time, he could credibly mimic an opponent’s wrestling style.
His in-ring career fizzled out after about five years, but it blew up once he transitioned to a behind-the-scenes role. Kyle’s ability to mimic others made him a highly valued trainer and sparring partner. He also worked on almost every wrestling video game in the last seven years.
Jake Colton helped Kyle get a lot of that work, so of course Nguyen always made room in his schedule for Nate. Willing and able to adapt whatever style was needed, usually without complaint.
This day was not usual, as Nguyen had a lot of complaints about the assignment.
“Look, most of the time I can at least build off of someone else, right? Here’s a list of people who fight like Coral Avalon.”
Nate waited for a moment, but no answer seemed to be forthcoming. “So, what’s the list?”
“That was it! There’s fucking nobody. Dude is a Swiss Army Wrestler. And don’t even get me started on the Armaments.”
Colton silently agreed. Of all the things that made Coral Avalon dangerous, the King’s Armaments were possibly the most unique. His brother Benjamin often talked about how devastating they were, and he was something of an expert; when their respective teams met in the Flynn Cup last year, Benny experienced four of them first-hand.
Benny often said other things about Coral Avalon, but none of those were relevant. Or appropriate.
Nate shrugged, a twinge of pain shooting through his right arm–a reminder of the damage he suffered at Culture Shock. “I know it’s a big ask. If it can’t be done, we’ll just figure something else out.”
“Hey. Did I say I couldn’t do it?” Kyle asked, personal pride winning out over frustration. “This’ll feel exactly like being in the ring with Coral himself…if he was drunk, and knee-deep in quicksand.”
“Good enough,” Nate said. “I just need to get a feel for what it’s going to be like.”
“It’s going to be like trying to fight some hyper-skilled trickster demon until he kicks you in the face to death.”
“Not helping.” Nate tried to shake off Kyle’s attitude, but he had to admit the man had a point. Coral had been wrestling almost as long as Nate had been alive; he had a massive edge in experience to go along with his mercurial style and devastating arsenal. “But you’re not wrong, either. I’m worried about the Armaments…one of them in particular.”
“You should. But yeah, that one’s looking awful scary right now.”
Nate gave a somber nod. “Vortigern’s Pillory.”
“Right. The one where he ties you into a knot and tries to snap your arm off. The same arm that got all fucked up in your last match.”
He absentmindedly rubbed his right shoulder. “It’s fine.”
“It’s not. I saw you wince earlier and that was just for a second. There’s no way he’s not zeroing in on that.”
“I said it’s fine. Now let’s get started.”
They started circling each other, with Nate waiting for Kyle to make the first move. Whatever he expected, it wasn’t ‘bounce off the ropes and throw a yakuza kick right away.’ Nate dodged at the last second, but nearly coming face-to-foot with the First Armament ten seconds into the session served as a brutal wake-up call.
“Gotta be ready for anything,” Kyle chirped.
That set the tone for the next few minutes. Nate Colton tried to guess what was coming next, and invariably, he was wrong.
Eventually a Great Value Rhongomyniad caught him, and was immediately followed by Vortigern’s Pillory. Nate tapped immediately…which of course, brought more chirping from Nguyen.
“Hey, does that make me the Five Star Champion now?”
“Ha ha,” Nate said without humor. “Let’s go again.”
The next round was more of the same; several minutes of Nate floundering before getting caught in the Pillory. This time Kyle put the omoplata on Colton’s bad arm, making the submission a little easier to endure but much harder to escape.
“Uh oh, someone’s learning they should have spent more time at the gym and less time with their new girlfriend!”
Nate stood up with a snarl. “Again.”
“If you say so,” Kyle said, every bit as cocky as Nate was furious. “But this is what it’s like to wrestle against Avalon. Only at, like, a quarter speed.”
The next round went more in Nate’s favor, when the patterns started to emerge. He had to think farther ahead than ever before, but once he got the hang of it, he could manipulate Kyle’s options. A hiptoss was blocked, but that allowed Nate the opening for a belly-to-belly suplex. Nate’s cravate hold turned into Kyle’s wristlock, which then got countered into an armbar. A headlock became a push into the ropes, which led to a back body drop…but more accurately, led to a double underhook and then Nate getting dropped on his head.
His head swam, but he had just enough coherence to sit up in order to avoid Vortigern’s Pillory…which would have been great, if that’s what Kyle was doing. Instead, Colton felt a sudden impact to the back of his head.
“Fuck!” he screamed as he fell back down. He rolled toward the corner, then waited for his vision to clear before he glared at his sparring partner. “I thought we were focusing on the Pillory!”
“No, we’re focusing on your opponent. C’mon, dude. The moment you start expecting what he’s gonna do, you are fucked.”
Kyle offered a hand up, but Nate waved him off. He sat in place for a while without trying to stand again. His heart was racing; he was sweating buckets.
Jesus, I’m feeling rough, he thought.
In Nate’s defense, he had to take a long break after Culture Shock to recover from his injuries…though that didn’t explain all the days he skipped workout sessions. No, those were explained by an item from a recent Savannah Scandal column.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if the staff at the Asylum weren’t regular readers of the Scandal Sheet. They gave Nate no end of shit on the days he did show up, and Kyle–a born shit-talker–was no exception.
“You’re in bad shape, my dude,” Kyle quipped. “This new girl of yours must be some piece of ass for–”
Zero to sixty, in the blink of an eye.
“Don’t you fucking DARE!” Nate was suddenly on his feet; his hands were balled and ready to strike. He took a step toward Kyle, every fiber of his being suddenly screaming for blood.
Kyle’s eyes went wide, and he quickly rolled out of the ring. He’d been at this long enough to know the difference between sparring and an actual fight.
“Chill. Chill! I didn’t mean nothing by it, okay?” Kyle raised his arms as a disarming gesture, but still backed away from the ring as Colton approached the ropes.
“Don’t ever talk about her like that!” he screamed; his pain, fatigue, and frustration were suddenly things of the past.
“Okay, man. Look, it’s getting intense and I don’t feel safe right now. What say we take fifteen, grab some water, and try again, huh?”
Colton stood still for a moment, took a deep breath…and eventually nodded.
When the moment passed, he was appalled by his reaction. Where the fuck did that come from? he thought. I was ready to strangle him.
And then another thought occurred.
Maybe I can use this?
Fifteen minutes later, Nate and Kyle were back at it. Nate was faring better than before; he was slowly learning to think four or five moves ahead. He spent more and more time on offense, and even managed a few pinfalls. But eventually the tide turned, and there was no better way to do so than Camelot’s Turntable.
As Kyle completed the move, he held onto Nate’s arm and turned him over, setting up the omoplata. Once again, Nate found himself face-down on the mat, his left arm trapped between Nguyen’s legs. Nate brought his other arm in close, but couldn’t avoid Kyle’s grip for very long. Kyle tried to extend Nate’s arm in order to complete the move.
Let’s try it.
He imagined Kyle’s rude comment from earlier, but in Coral Avalon’s voice. The Crownless King, dismissively calling the woman Nate loved “some piece of ass.” Immediately, he felt…
Nate knew Coral Avalon to be one of the most good-natured and respectful people in the business. He would never be so crass. The idea was so absurd that he couldn’t get the voice right; the Coral in his imagination sounded more like Kermit the Frog.
Nate chuckled, prompting Nguyen to pull on his arm even harder. “Don’t see what’s so funny here, champ!” he taunted.
Okay, anger didn’t work. Jealousy, then.
He pictured Coral Avalon, standing victorious in the ring, holding his belt and his gir–
Nope. He couldn’t even finish the thought; Coral would never.
Okay, the belt part he absolutely would; that was the whole point.
But the other part? No way. The idea of Coral with anyone other than Annabelle was preposterous. Nate had seen them together at one of the Clubhouse gatherings; those two were so adorable that Benny stopped flirting with Avalon, because he knew he couldn’t compete. They reminded him of his parents…and of what his own life had been missing.
By the time he shook the idea out of his head, Kyle had already straightened his arm and was threatening to pull it back. If Nate was going to escape, he had to do it now.
But there was something in there…a flicker of promise in an otherwise wrong answer.
A thought bubbled up to the surface of Nate’s mind.
She’ll leave you again
He felt his heart beat faster. Blood pressure increased, and strength returned to his limbs. He focused his attention on the imminent threat…but not the one that had his arms trapped.
You blow this and you’re just another loser, she doesn’t have time for losers
A growl emerged from Nate’s throat, and he flexed his right arm, trying to pull it back down to the mat. Kyle tried to wrench it back, but suddenly found himself unable to make any progress.
You better get out of this you chickenshit or she’s going to bail on you faster than you can blink. You think this is pain? This is NOTHING.
Slowly, Nate brought his arm down, and twisted it free of Kyle Nguyen’s grasp. He used it to push himself off the mat, easing the torque of the omoplata on the other arm. Agony lanced through his shoulder as he did so, but he could manage. He had to.
The last time she walked out, THAT was pain, DO YOU WANT TO GO THROUGH THAT AGAIN
Kyle tried to drive him back to the mat; Nate faltered slightly but was able to maintain his position. He couldn’t do it for long though; it was now or never.
FUCK YOU NATHAN YOU GET OUT OF THIS OR SHE’S GOING TO FIND A REAL MAN AND FORGET ABOUT YOU BEFORE SHE EVEN LEAVES THE ROOM
He rolled forward to escape the hold, but his leg swung wild as he did so, and his heel caught Kyle Nguyen in the back of the head. Kyle rocked forward, then fell back. In a moment, Nate took a mount position and was ready to rain down with strikes, until he saw his opponent’s eyes fluttering.
The Next Diamond stood up and stepped back. “Kyle?” he asked. “You okay?”
“Peachy good!” Nguyen replied. “I don’t know what the fuck you did just now, but it worked. Let’s save it for the real fights though, huh?”
“I’m sorry, man,” Nate said as he helped Kyle back up to his feet. He was shaky, but all right.
Nate was…well, he wasn’t sure.
Yeah, it worked, he thought. But is it worth it?
# # #
Home again. The apartment was a quiet place where he could think. Good thing, because Nate Colton had a lot of thinking to do…but there was something very important he had to take care of first.
Upon his arrival, the first thing he did was head straight for the bathroom and look at the glass on the sink. Her toothbrush was still there, and Nate suddenly felt a lot more at ease.
The Next Diamond laughed at himself. What am I so worried about? he thought. Everything’s fine. And it was.
Except for how he had to keep tricking himself for a sense of motivation.
Or how he spent all day preparing to counter a move his opponent might not even use.
Or the pictures that flashed in his mind while he was escaping Vortigern’s Pillory. The lengths he would go to, if it meant she would stay this time.
Or that he’d been lying to his friends and family for a month about his relationship.
Or that his entire sense of self-worth suddenly hinged on the presence of a toothbrush.
Everything is fine.
But he couldn’t fool himself this time.
This is a story about the boy who got everything he ever wanted.
And how he couldn’t be happy, for fear of losing it.